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When to evacuate or take shelter in a building

Buildings in Vancouver

In an emergency, you may need to:

  • Evacuate your home and neighbourhood, or
  • Stay where you are and shelter-in-place

The City of Vancouver has a plan to coordinate evacuations when they are required by us or the Province of BC to keep people safe.

Be prepared and review:

  1. The evacuation stages
  2. How you'll get notified
  3. Evacuating your home
  4. Taking shelter at home, at work, and in your car

Know the evacuation stages

We issue an evacuation alert to warn people in an affected area that:

  1. There is an imminent threat to life and property
  2. They will likely have to leave the area

The amount of notice we give will depend on the hazard.

There may or may not be time to prepare yourself, your family, home, and business, so get prepared now.

If there is a sudden emergency, we skip the alert and issue an evacuation order.

We issue an evacuation order when people in the affected area must leave immediately.

Returning to the area during an evacuation order may only be allowed in certain situations.

When the emergency has ended and the affected area is safe, we end the evacuation order. A rescind may be issued for only part of the affected area, depending on the situation.

If the threat returns at any time, we can reinstate an evacuation alert or evacuation order.

How you'll get notified of evacuations

Evacuation alerts and orders are communicated by:

  • Officials going door-to-door
  • A police or fire vehicle with a loudspeaker
  • Radio, television, social media, and the VanConnect smartphone app
  1. Stay calm.
  2. Gather your family.
  3. Offer help to neighbours and people in need.
  4. Use as few vehicles as possible to evacuate.
  5. Wear clothing and shoes that are appropriate for the emergency conditions.
  6. Take your emergency kit and emergency plan, including essential medications and copies of prescriptions.
  7. Take your pets in a kennel or on a leash.
  8. Turn off appliances, lights, and heaters.
  9. Shut off the water supply (and gas supply if you're told to).
  10. If you can, leave a note on your door or in your mailbox about when you left and where you went.
  11. Lock your doors and windows.
  12. Go to a reception centre (if one exists) to register where you'll be staying, so that you can be reunited with family.
    • Follow the directions of emergency workers.
    • Don't take shortcuts – they may lead to blocked or dangerous areas.
    • Register even if you don't need essential services or you plan to stay with friends.
  13. Monitor emergency radio, TV broadcasts, social media, and the VanConnect smartphone app for information.
  14. Only make phone calls if it's an emergency.
  15. Wait for authorities to notify you when it's safe to return home.

Sheltering-in-place (taking shelter indoors)

Shelter-in-place orders are issued for situations that:

  • Only last a few hours
  • Are not safe to evacuate

If an shelter-in-place order is issued, learn what to do as you take shelter indoors immediately.

  1. Bring your pets inside, without risking your own safety.
  2. Close and lock all the windows, exterior doors, and any other openings to the outside.
  3. Close fireplace dampers, vents, or other openings
  4. Turn off all fans, and heating and air conditioning systems.
  5. Seal all cracks around doors, windows, and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape.
  6. Close all drapes, curtains, and shades.
  7. Stay away from external windows.
  8. Move your family and pets to an interior room without windows that is above ground level and bring your 72 hour emergency kit.
    • Use stairs when possible – avoid or limit use of elevators.
  9. Seal the door and windows in your shelter-in-place room with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Place a damp towel along the base of the door.
  10. Have a hard-wired landline phone in the room you select to shelter-in-place. Only use the telephone for emergencies.
  11. Monitor emergency radio, TV broadcasts, social media, and the VanConnect smartphone app for information.
  12. Only make phone calls if it's an emergency.
  13. Be ready to evacuate if directed by authorities.

Prepare shelter-in-place areas that:

  1. Are inside
  2. Above the ground floor
  3. Have minimal or no windows
  4. Have enough space for everyone to sit on the floor (you may need several rooms to avoid overcrowding)
  5. Have a hard-wired landline phone

To shelter-in-place at work:

  1. Notify all outside workers to come indoors.
  2. Close the business.
  3. Direct all workers, customers, clients, and visitors to the shelter-in-place areas and to sit away from any windows.
    • Use stairs when possible – avoid or limit use of elevators.
  4. Turn on call-forwarding or alternate phone-answering systems or services.
    • If you have voicemail or an automated attendant, change the message to advise that the business is closed and that staff and visitors will remain in the building until authorities advise that the area is safe.
  5. Close and lock all windows, exterior doors, and any other openings to the outside.
  6. Close all the drapes, curtains, and shades.
  7. Turn off all fans, heating- and air-conditioning systems, exhausts, and air intakes.
    • If possible, seal any systems that exchange indoor and outdoor air.
  8. Bring disaster supplies into the shelter-in-place room, including:
    • Non-perishable food
    • Water
    • A battery-powered radio
    • Flashlights
    • First-aid kits
    • Duct tape
    • Plastic sheeting
  9. Seal the door, windows, and vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting. If available, place rolled damp towels at the base of the door.
  10. Write down:
    • The names of everyone in the room
    • Their emergency contact name and number
    • Their relationship with the company (such as worker, customer, client, or visitor)
  11. Monitor emergency radio for information.
  12. Be ready to evacuate if directed by authorities.

If you are very close to home, your office, or a building:

  1. Go there immediately and go inside
  2. Follow the shelter-in-place instructions for home or work, above.

If you are unable to get to a building quickly and safely:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road.
  2. Stop your vehicle in a shady area.
  3. Turn on your hazard lights.
  4. Turn off the engine, close windows, and vents.
  5. If possible, seal the heat and air-conditioning vents with duct tape.
  6. Listen to the radio regularly for updates and instructions.
  7. Stay where you are until authorities declare the area is safe.
  8. Follow traffic directions from authorities to avoid closed roads.

Contact the Office of Emergency Management

Phone: 3-1-1

emergency.management
@vancouver.ca